Tampa's partial panhandling ban advances toward final vote

10/06/11 Josh Holton
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:


Tampa City Council has broken the tense deadlock by passing a partial panhandling ban. Council vice chair Mary Mulhern fought to stop the ban, to no avail.

The proposed panhandling ban has been tied up in a stalemate for several weeks, and finally passed a first reading this morning with a 6 to 1 vote. Council chair Charlie Miranda has been recovering from health issues, and missed the previous vote. He was preparing to phone in his vote today, but Mulhern took advantage of her position as temporary chair to challenge his remote vote.

The Tampa City Council uses Robert’s Rules of Order as their secondary guide to running meetings, after their own bylaws. Using the latest edition of the rules that came out earlier than expected, Mulhern determined the council won’t be able to establish rules for phone voting until next month. Even Council attorney Martin Shelby didn’t quite know what to do.

Miranda may have been watching the drama on television and decided enough was enough. City attorney Jim Shimberg delivered the news.

Since the question of a phone vote was moot, Mulhern opened public comment. Several churches have been burdened by a large homeless population with diverse needs. Pastor Tom Atchison with the New Life Church supports the ban, and said panhandling ineffectively provides for the needy.

Two weeks ago street solicitor Justin Fraser said that if the ban passed, his life would fall apart. And today he said the ban could exacerbate the problems the city seeks to avoid through implementing the ban.

The partial ban would prohibit street solicitation or begging in right of ways except on Sundays. Newspaper sales are also exempt. This compromise was crucial for several council members whose constituents demanded an outlet for independent newspaper sales. The Tampa Tribune’s Jim Lake proposed a partnership with the Florida Sentinel Bulletin.

This was a crucial move in securing council member’s Frank Reddick’s vote. He was against the partial ban until Sentinel Bulletin publisher voiced her approval.

But Council member Mary Mulhern stood firm, and said the ban would not solve anything.

Apostolic Catholic Church Bishop Chuck Leigh was one religious leader who felt the same way, and called the ban immoral. He said he will commit civil disobedience and beg alongside panhandlers if the ban goes through.

Leigh asked the council if they were more concerned with protecting neighborhood aesthetics for businesses and corporations, or protecting people. After the vote, USF student Clayton Cullaton went across the street to the Occupy Tampa protest.

The ban will go back to council for a final vote on October 20th.

Clarification: The version we aired Thursday afternoon and Friday morning was incorrect about the partial ban. The partial ban that moves to a final vote will allow newspaper sales every day, and street solicitation on Sunday only. There are also 10 major intersections where all solicitation is prohibited.

comments powered by Disqus